A sign outside St. Luke, Peterborough has attracted the attention of not only local pedestrians and motorists but thousands of people on social media as well.
Parishioners George and Kathy Axcell, who have been tending the sign for many years, put up the message in late February at the suggestion of the Rev. Glenn Empey, the priest-in-charge. It read “Tweet others as you wish to be tweeted,” a play on Jesus’ teaching to do onto others as you would have them do unto you. The message was accompanied by the church’s Twitter hashtag and, on the back, the address of its new website.
Local singer-songwriter Carling Stephen liked the sign so much that she took a photo of it and shared it on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform. A digital media company that specializes in social news and entertainment about Peterborough, PTBO Canada, posted the photo on its website and Facebook page.
Within a day, the picture had been retweeted, or shared by others on Twitter, nearly 900 times and “liked” about 2,000 times. Thousands in Canada and the United States viewed it on Twitter and Facebook, and many commented.
As the posting took off, Ms. Stephen sent a Twitter message to the church: “Bravo to you! Thousands of people have been amused and tickled by your work.” Mr. Empey replied with a word of thanks and a posted a video of one of her songs on the church’s website, www.stlukesanglican.ca.
He says he was surprised by the reaction to the sign, located on the church’s property beside Armour Road. “St. Luke’s has had the sign there since it moved to the site in the early 1960s and there have been messages on it for many years, but I don’t think anything has had the impact that this one has.”
He says the message wasn’t trying to make a comment on President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter. “It had nothing to do with that. The idea was to have a catchy slogan that has a theological connection and it connects with people on social media.”
He saw the message online a few years ago and used it on a sign outside St. Matthew and St. Aidan, Buckhorn, where he is also the parish priest. He suggested it to George and Kathy Axcell to attract people to St. Luke’s new website and social media channels.
The strategy worked. In addition to being recognized by Twitter and Facebook users, the church has seen an uptick in the number of visitors to its website, particularly in the 45-50 age group. “I was really surprised by that,” says Mr. Empey. “We don’t have a lot of people in that age group at St. Luke’s, and it’s interesting that they followed it on social media and then went to the website.”
He says St. Luke’s is still working out a strategy for using digital and social media, something he thinks every parish should be doing. “People don’t go to the newspaper anymore to find out where Sunday services are – they go on Google. That’s their window on the world. If I was looking for a church, that’s what I’d do.”
He says a good website is critical to any strategy. “If I went to a website and it didn’t look good, that would tell me a lot about the church. But if it’s a good, topical, inviting website, then I’m liable to spend a bit of time there. A good website might bring in some people to get involved – whether it’s for a project or coming to church.”
Beauty breaks me wide open to God